Monday, June 09, 2008

Scenes - Sarikei Coolies

In the late 50s - 60s, the Sarikei wharf was a busy place with 2 groups of Foochow and 1 group of Hokkien coolies (dock labourers) and at the height of its days, each coolie membership was traded for over 10 thousands dollars. (Source: reader Lidasar)

In the 1960-70s, the coolies can be identified with a red or blue cloth (used as a anti dirt layer between their shirts and the goods) and a hooked tool (used for hooking onto sacks like animal feed or sugar and flinging the sack over their shoulder).

There are people that worked for the shops that also delivered goods to and from the wharf.

Sarikei coolies with traditional trolley, 1960s-1970s.
Find the clothe around the coolie's head.
Click to enlarge. Click back arrow to come back.
Source: Sarawak in Pictures

Can you identify which angle was this photo taken? I think these was taken from Nyelong Road with "Block 5 Repok Road Left" at left and "Block 5 Repok Road Right" at right but I thought "Block 5 Repok Road Left" has a 1st floor balcony?

I think the sides of the 1st floor of all 4 blocks at the junction of the current traffic lights (Nyelong Road, Jalan Masjid Lama and Repok Road) had a balcony with the design of 5 cubes forming a cross (design example can be seen in the 2nd floor balcony in the picture).

The other angle could be from Jalan Masjid Lama with "Block 4 Repok Road Right" at left and "Block 4 Repok Road Left" at right.

Sarikei Rejang Wharf Terminal 1, 2007.
How was he going to carry the machine to the boat?

This type of goods trolley is used by shops to deliver goods to and from the wharf. One man pulls from the front and an optional man pushes from behind if the load is heavy like several gunny sacks of rice, white sacks of salt and tins of biscuits. The handle can be locked with a chain and padlock so that anyone seen pulling a handle that's upright may be a potential thief.

Sarikei Rejang Wharf Terminal 1, 2007

Then another coolie came and the two of them hoisted the machinery with a pole on their shoulder. Innovative but risky way to move this heavy stuff.

Kids used to play on these trolleys in the 1960s-1970s. One game was for the catcher to be on the ground and the kids to be "caught" (via contact) on the trolley. The catcher whose hand was not long enough to have contact with the kids on the trolley would have to run around the trolley while the kids avoided him.

Sarikei Rejang Wharf Terminal 1, 2007.
Coolies unloading goods from truck at Bank Road.

Coolies may not have the coolest jobs but they are the unsung heroes of Sarikei that provide a vital service to the humble life of Sarikei through the decades.


Daniel Yiek said...

Sarikei wins gold in hammer (National)

The Sarawak might in hammer throw continued with debutant Jackie Wong Siew Cheer emerging as the champion with a 42.47m effort. It was a personal best for the athlete from Sarikei.

Sarawakiana said...

I am delighted by your article on the Coolies.

Origin of the word , coolie , came from India and it became acceptable in the English dictionary.

Some cartoons even showed colonials having their shoe strings tied on the back of coolies.

The Chinese later borrowed the word coolie , thereafter we Chinese have the Ku Li.....

No few people use the word coolie, except in a humourous manner.

I wrote about the strong Foochow Men of Sibu..A tribute to our previous generation.

lidasar said...

Nice entry on the Coolies and description by Sarawakiana how the name came about.

I thought Ku Li in Malaysia is referring to Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah?

The Foochows calling Coolies as KaKo, mind you Kako normally eat 2 or 3 bowls of rice more than you do and yet they have "zero-fat". Some of the Kako did very well in later part of their life and one of such is the shop that is on 3rd block Repok Left with the shop name "Something-Soon"”which was previously occupied by the shop Eng Leong.

Kanga said...

I recalled coolies using the 'T' handled hooks as an aid to anchor bags of pepper, rice, etc. I also heard the tale that coolies would swallow new born baby mice (eyes not open yet)believing that this would help in developing strong back muscles. I had worked with one of those traditional trolleys helping my dad in moving sacks of pepper. When loaded they were difficult to start and stop unless you have many helpers!

Tuan Lokong said...

Hi guys, Good info about Coolie - Ku Li or Kako. Some even say as Coolikeng and in Sare' we still say "Ngigga Kuli" or looking for workers.

My curson was a Coolikeng till he retired at 54 daily intake is a small bottle of Stout.

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